Baseball: Huskies travel to Virginia, look to keep mashing at Liberty

The UConn baseball team (4-2) will look to continue an incredibly torrid display of team hitting this weekend when they travel to Virginia to meet Liberty University for a three-game series.

After suffering walk-off losses to UTSA in their first two games of the 2016 season, the Huskies closed that series in Texas with a 9-6 win and rode that momentum into an incredible sweep at the 2016 Governors Challenge in Tennessee, last weekend.

UConn scored a whopping 56 runs combined in their three neutral-field wins in Tennessee, the most the program has scored in a three-game stretch since 1994.

“We’re looking more at what we can do as a team opposed to what the opponent can do,” UConn head coach Jim Penders said this week. “We’re more focused on ourselves and our preparation than on any scouting.”

What the team can do is hit, again and again. The Huskies mashed 56 hits over the course of the weekend, beating up on three different opponents. UConn scored at least six runs in four of the 26 innings they batted in, helping to build huge leads over the opposition.

The Huskies even proved they can run with some of the nation’s best on Friday night, when they handled No. 12 Missouri State (12-4) behind that same prolific offense. UConn ace Anthony Kay also delivered an impressive start that day, picking up the win after recording a career-high 10 strikeouts in six handy innings.

As the Huskies continue to work their way through the program’s usual slate of winter road trips, Penders said he is feeling great about his team as a whole.

“I really enjoy seeing every guy in our dugout and our uniform every day … and I haven’t been able to say that every season,” he said.

Their opponent, the Liberty Flames, will come into this weekend with a 5-4 record this season. The Flames, who are coming off a 7-6 loss to Old Dominion on Tuesday afternoon, are 1-0 so far in 2016 in their home park of Liberty Baseball Stadium.

Through nine games, Liberty’s offensive output has been equally distributed between several consistent starters. Six different players have recorded at least eight hits, but no player has more than 11.

Three Liberty players tie for the team lead with two home runs apiece, with power hitter Andrew Yacyk leading the Flames with 11 runs batted in. Andrew Kowalo leads the team in batting average (over at least 25 bats) with a .407 mark at the plate.

The Liberty pitching staff has compiled a similarly diverse set of statistics. No pitcher has reached 9.0 innings pitched yet, as seven different players have recorded starts on the mound. Victor Cole and Michael Stafford, the only Flames with multiple starts, are possible candidates to start games this weekend against UConn. The Flames’ team ERA is 4.98.

The Huskies are 3-2 all-time against Liberty, with the last meeting between the two teams in 1998 ending in a 6-5 UConn win.

This weekend’s series will begin on Friday at 3 p.m. The two teams will meet again on Saturday at 2 p.m. before the finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.


Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu. He tweets @tylerskeating.